The NHL season has been upon us for an entire week now, making this the first installment of our weekly power rankings. I will be covering the Eastern Conference, and Dylan will be covering the Western Conference.
We’re only a week in and the NHL has provided us with plenty of drama, fights have made their way back to the front of the hockey debates, coaches are already being fired, and teams already look like their seasons may be in trouble, while others look to be in mid season form, and flying high in the tops of the standings.
1. The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t surprising anyone with the way they’re playing early on this season. They won both games during the first week of the season, and did it without much trouble. Marc-Andre Fleury has been on his game, and the Penguins have rolled through the Devils and the Sabres. The Penguins have outshot their opponents 56-48, and have won 72 of 129 faceoffs. Puck possession means everything in hockey, especially when you’re playing a skilled team like the Penguins, and puck possession all starts in the faceoff dot.
2. The Boston Bruins had a decisive victory in Boston against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, outplaying the Wings on their way to a 4-1 win. The Bruins are 2-0 to start their season, and they’ve proved their strength so far. The Bruins have outscored their opponents 7-2. The Bruins penalty kill has been perfect thus far, killing all 7 penalties they’ve been given. The Bruins are starting right where they left off last season, and Tuukka Rask has continued to play well stopping 57 of 59 shots. Zdeno Chara has also proven his flexibility by playing at the forward position on the powerplay. Awkward? Only for the goalie the 6 foot 9 monster is standing in front of screening.
3. The Toronto Maple Leafs have started off their season on quite the tear. They’re 3-0 despite trailing in all three games at one point. The Maple Leafs goaltender, James Reimer started off the season strong, but stumbled a bit in Ottawa. Luckily for the Leafs, offseason acquisition Jonathan Bernier stepped in and has played extremely well for the Leafs. The Leafs offense has been excellent as well, scoring 12 goals in three games. Now, if only the defense could step up and help out the goalies a bit more, the Leafs may be a force to be reckoned with in the East this season.
4. The Detroit Red Wings had a quick start to the 2013-2014 season, playing three game in four nights. The Wings started out strong, out playing the Buffalo Sabres to open their season, and then provided a last second come back in Carolina to force overtime and eventually get the win. Detroit stumbled against Boston, but playing Wednesday, Friday, and then having their toughest task being against Boston on Saturday night, they were gassed. Jimmy Howard has been excellent for the Wings, and Henrik Zetterberg has been great on both ends of the ice. The Wings powerplay has yet to score this season, despite looking much better than last year. If the Wings can get a hot powerplay, they should be able to cruise through most of the season.
5. The Montreal Canadiens fell to the Maple Leafs on opening night, but bounced back to beat the Flyers on Saturday 4-1. The Canadiens have proven that they’re a tough team to play against, and even a tougher team to beat. The Canadiens are being led by the NHL’s second star of the week Lars Eller. Eller has contributed a point on five of the Canadiens seven goals this season. Carey Price has been solid so far this season, and he’s going to have to continue his strong play. We’ve seen it before, the Canadiens are only as good as Price is.
6. The Ottawa Senators won an impressive game for their opener against the Buffalo Sabres. Ottawa beat the Sabres 1-0, outshooting the Sabres 46-35, in a true showdown between two of the league’s best goalies. Craig Anderson proved once again he’s ready to pick up right where he left off last season. Ottawa took advantage of James Reimer taking a night off when they scored 4 goals, but they eventually gave up the lead to the Maple Leafs and lost in a shoot out 5-4. The Senators have peppered opposing goalies with an average of 41 shots a night. If they can continue to put the puck on net, good things will happen.
7. The New York Rangers played only one game during opening week. They were beat 4-1 by the Phoenix Coyotes. New York was 1 for 4 on the powerplay, and 2 for 3 on the penalty kill. The Rangers were outshot 32-24. Not much of a sample size for the Rangers in week one, but they were outplayed by the Coyotes. Ryan Callahan will be returning to the line up for the Rangers against the Kings tonight, and it should help the Rangers start piecing together some offense.
8. The New York Islanders were able to play spoiler to the New Jersey Devils home opener, and Martin Brodeur‘s first game of the season by beating them 4-3 in overtime. They were unable to do the same to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who rallied in the third period to beat the Islanders. The Islanders held a 2-0 lead entering the third, and the Jackets forced overtime and a shootout before downing the Isles. The Islanders are 2-6 on the powerplay for the season, but will need to start beating teams in regulation instead of forcing overtime.
9. The Washington Capitals have been completely dominate on the powerplay this season, scoring on six of twelve opportunities. The powerplay, unfortunately, hasn’t been quite enough to get the Capitals wins though. They’re 1-2-0 so far this season. The defense and goaltending has been an issue for the Capitals so far, and they need to lock it down inside their own blue line. If the Capitals can lock it down on the defensive side of the rink, the offense is a really scary thing for opponents to deal with, especially when Alex Ovechkin is scoring like he is right now.
10. The Columbus Blue Jackets were beaten in their home opener by a surprisingly offensive Calgary Flames team, but they were able to turn it around and rally back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Islanders to even up their record at 1-1. The powerplay as helped out the Jackets early this season, scoring in both games. The offense hasn’t been an issue so far for the Blue Jackets, but Sergei Bobrovsky and the defense haven’t lived up to the expectations they set for themselves last season. Don’t fear Columbus faithfuls, it’s only been a week, and they still have 80 more games to play.
11. The Carolina Hurricanes had a two goal lead on the Detroit Red Wings entering the third period, when the Wings rallied back and scored two in the third to force overtime, and eventually Stephen Weiss netted the game winner to ruin the Hurricanes home opener. The Hurricanes were able to bounce back Sunday and beat their divisional partner Philadelphia Flyers 2-1. The Hurricanes will only be as good as Cam Ward this season, and he’s played well so far. The offense is skilled, but the defense in Carolina is lacking, leaving the bulk of the load to be dealt with by Ward. If Ward can stay healthy and stay hot, Carolina has a chance to do something with this season.
12. The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t have the easiest start to the season, playing in Boston, and then traveling to Chicago. They were beaten by the Bruins 3-1, and really didn’t seem to ever get their feet under them, mostly due to Boston’s ability to shut them down. Chicago was a different story, as they were able to defeat the Stanley Cup Champs 3-2 in a shootout. Tampa rallied back from a 2-0 deficit, scoring two goals in 1:43. Steven Stamkos provided two assists, and new captain Martin St. Louis scored the first and assisted on the second. Tampa needs to do a better job of staying out of the box, but luckily for them Ben Bishop was sharp and helped kill 4 of the 5 powerplays they provided for the Hawks.
13. The Florida Panthers came out in the season opener and defeated the new look Dallas Stars, but then fell victim to a beating by the St. Louis Blues. For a minute there, I thought the Panthers might actually be a team to watch, and if they could keep up with the Blues, I was going to give them a good amount of props, but a stomping of 7-0 shut me up quick. The Panthers powerplay has been dead this season, and if they can’t find a way to get it going they’re going to be in trouble. They’ve yet to score on 11 powerplays this season.
14. The New Jersey Devils proved exactly what everyone thought would be the problem this season in the first game. The Devils need goal scoring. They were shut out by the Penguins in the first game of the season, and were beaten in a shootout by the Islanders. New comer, Damien Brunner made sure everyone knew his name in the second game of the season scoring two goals against the Islanders. He’s going to be a huge help for the Devils, who are in desperate need of offense. If Brunner can prove to be more consistent this season, he’s going to be a huge signing for the Devils, who are still searching for their first win of the season.
15. The Buffalo Sabres are a young team, and it may take some time before they get back to their winning ways, but Ryan Miller is making a strong case for Buffalo to try and hang on to him. And if the Sabres don’t decide to hang on to him, he’s making a case for a huge price tag in a trade. The Sabres powerplay has been dreadful, their entire offense has been dreadful for that matter, only mustering up two goals in three games. The Sabres have a lot of problems this season, the defense hasn’t been great either, and the only reason scores have looked as good as they have is because of Ryan Miller playing hotter than he has in a while.
16. The Philadelphia Flyers are 0-3 this season, and have just relieved coach Peter Laviolette of his duties as head coach. The Flyers still have plenty of time to turn around their season, but the problems need to be fixed soon. The Flyers haven’t been able to muster up much offense scoring only one goal in each of their games. The defense is still a huge issue, and goaltending is an issue as well, and unfortunately, defense and goaltending go hand in hand. The Flyers have some problems they’re going to have to fix soon. The next to go will be Paul Holmgren, and with good reason.